Angina or angina pectoris is severe pain in the chest that may spread to the shoulders, arms, and neck. The condition is caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. However, angina is not classified as a disease. It is a symptom of some heart problems, most commonly CHD or coronary heart disease, and CAD or coronary artery disease. People with angina describe their pain as a squeezing, tightness, pressure, burning, or heaviness in the chest.
Angina usually occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked, reducing blood flow to the heart. This is atherosclerosis. Angina also can be an indicator of coronary microvascular disease or MVD. Men over 45 and women over the age of 55 are the most likely candidates, as are those with unhealthy cholesterol levels or eating habits, high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, and people who smoke. A family history of early heart disease also increases the risk of angina.
There are several variations of angina. Physical exertion is the usual culprit in the onset of stable angina. Exercising demands more blood reach the heart. Narrow arteries make it harder for the heart muscle to get the blood it needs. Unstable angina occurs when fatty deposits of plaque rupture or form blood clots, rapidly decreasing blood flow. This type of angina requires emergency medical treatment, as it can progress quickly. Prinzmental's angina happens when the coronary artery narrows temporarily and is usually caused by emotional stress, smoking or cocaine use.
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